Top of the Agenda: International War Crimes Court Sentences Former Liberian President
The Special Court for Sierra Leone near The Hague today sentenced former Liberian president Charles Taylor to fifty years in prison (NYT) for aiding and abetting "heinous and brutal crimes" during Sierra Leone's civil war in the 1990s. In April, the court found Taylor guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes connected with the use of child soldiers and the mutilation of thousands of civilians. Taylor's legal team said it would appeal the "excessive" sentence, while the prosecution indicated it might also appeal in an effort to have the sentence lengthened. Taylor, whose trial began in 2006, is the court's last defendant.
"Charles Taylor is a villain who terrorized, oppressed, and repressed his people. Instead of being a leader, he decided he would be a ruler. When he became president of Liberia in 1997, he had a chance to wash away the gangster attitude of the evil regime that preceded him. Instead, he chose a path of violence, sparking a bloody civil war among the people who had elected him to lead," Leymah Gbowee writes for Newsweek.
"The six-year trial heard harrowing stories of how Taylor's forces unleashed a maelstrom of brutality across the region. Taylor aimed to make billions from exploiting the richest diamond fields in the world, and as many as 50,000 people were killed in the blood-soaked conflict that embroiled Sierra Leone and Liberia, even spreading into Ivory Coast and Guinea," writes TIME's Leo Cendrowicz.
Suu Kyi Visits Thailand
Myanmar opposition leader and pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi began a visit to neighboring Thailand Tuesday evening--her first trip abroad in twenty-four years--and addressed thousands of Myanmar's migrant workers (al-Jazeera) in a town south of Bangkok today.
PAKISTAN: The Taliban today denied local media reports that the head of the militant Haqqani network (AFP), Jalaluddin Haqqani, died from kidney disease. The group, which operates in Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, maintains ties with the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
Pakistan has emerged as a terrorist sanctuary for some of the world's most violent groups, including al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and homegrown militants, that threaten the stability of Pakistan as well as the region, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
World Powers Expel Syrian Diplomats
Thirteenworld powers, including the United States, expelled Syrian diplomats after UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said the situation in Syria had reached a "tipping point" (al-Jazeera) following the massacre of more than a hundred villagers in Houla on Friday.
The weekend massacre near Houla that has galvanized international outrage may spark a stronger Russian stand against the Assad regime, says Syria expert Mona Yacoubian in this CFR Interview.
BAHRAIN: Pro-democracy activist Zainab al-Khawaja was released from jail (BBC) after paying a fine. She was arrested last month after staging a lone protest calling for the release of her activist father, Abdulhadi.
Sudan, South Sudan Begin Negotiations
Senior officials from Sudan and South Sudan met in Addis Ababa yesterday in the first direct talks between the two sides since violent border clashes (Reuters) broke out last month. Sudan claimed it had pulled its troops out of the disputed Abyei territory Tuesday, even as South Sudan accused its neighbor of carrying out new bombing raids.
UNITED KINGDOM: The Supreme Court struck down an appeal by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Guardian) against extradition to Sweden on charges of sexual assault and rape. Assange's legal team has fourteen days to decide whether to ask the court to reopen the case.
Repsol Re-Strategizes After Loss of YPF
Spanish oil company Repsol announced yesterday it will divest as much as $5.66 billion of noncore assets and invest in new exploration, in response to Argentina's nationalization last month of energy company YPF (NYT), Repsol's largest foreign asset. Repsol is seeking $10.5 billion in compensation from the Argentinean government.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has criticized President Barack Obama's opposition to arming Syrian rebels. But even Romney's own party is divided on Syria, with some congressional Republicans sharing the president's reluctance and others urging air strikes (NYT).
Voters' confidence in the U.S. economy, the top issue in the campaign, is stable at a four-year high and still slowly rising, according to Gallup.
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